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Budget cuts at NLS take a back seat to the loss of students

NEW LONDON -- The New London-Spicer School Board began its regular meeting Monday with a moment of silence and ended the meeting with a prayer for its students, school and community.

At the beginning of the meeting, board chairman Robert Moller asked for silence and prayer for the district's students, staff and community impacted by the apparent suicides of Halee Lucas, 15, of Spicer, who died Wednesday, and Zachary Jones, 18, of Spicer, who died Friday.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families," Moller said, closing the moment of silence.

At the end of the meeting, board member Michael O'Brien told the rest of the board about a prayer session at the school Monday morning. O'Brien said he spent 45 minutes talking with a young man who told O'Brien he'd also tried to take his own life.

"He said he is only here because he's saved by Jesus Christ," O'Brien relayed. "He asked me to pray on the inside (of the school)."

So, O'Brien asked the board and Superintendent Paul Carlson if they objected to a prayer.

Moller also appointed board members Renee Nolting, Helena Lungstrom and David Kilpatrick to the community mental health task force being formed in response to the events. O'Brien was appointed as an alternate if the others cannot fulfill their obligations.

Nolting, who is also the executive director of the United Way of West Central Minnesota, informed the board members that the potential agenda for the task force includes compiling statistics on suicide, learning contributing factors, providing talking points and education for families and working with media on education and providing points of assistance for people in need.

The task force's initial meeting followed the school board meeting. Notling said that school administration and social workers would be involved, as would public health and law enforcement officials.

During the meeting, the board unanimously passed a resolution cutting the district's budget for the 2011-12 school year by $193,214.

The cuts include a 0.7 FTE business education teacher; a 0.5 FTE foreign language teacher; discontinuing four sixth-class pay assignments; 0.8 FTE high school teaching assignments from a number of teaching positions; discontinuing a 0.34 FTE music teacher; discontinuing the middle school "explore your options" program; cutting a 1.0 FTE special education management aide; and a 0.5 FTE cut in housekeeping. The cuts also include discontinuing a grade 9 softball coach and a middle school assistant tennis coach, and reducing the coaching for middle school cross country and gymnastics.

Prior to the unanimous vote, a motion failed that would have included a 0.67 FTE music teacher position. Voting against the motion were Lungstrom, Moller, Nolting and O'Brien. Voting for the motion were Dan DeGeest, Holli Cogelow Ruter and Kilpatrick.

Gretchen Schlosser

Gretchen Schlosser is the public safety reporter, and writes about agriculture occasionally, for the West Central Tribune. She's been with the Tribune since 2006 and has 17 years of experience working in news, media and communications. 

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